#12: Bass Tone Is More Than Just Low End

Bass Tone Is More Than Just Low End (Picture of a Bass Guitar)

Bass Tone is not just about getting the low end right. 

The bass has to cut through the mix and we need a bass tone that makes it audible on small speakers, as well. Also, we perceive low end differently depending on the midrange information, for example. We can even "hear" low end information when it's not really there at all. Sounds weird? Well, it's definitely fascinating!

It's also worth thinking about the role the bass guitar and the bass tone play in an arrangement. The interaction between the bass and everything else.

So, in order to capture a great bass tone that serves the song well and works in the final mix, it's absolutely crucial to know and understand all of these things. In this episode we're talking about how this all works and what to do if you want to dial in and record a great bass tone.


Things you'll learn in this episode about bass tone:

  • how bass is the "anchor" in an arrangement or chord progression
  • why simplifying a bass part doesn't make it any less important for the song
  • how the bass tone impacts the groove and feel of the whole song
  • how the bass tone impacts the guitar tone (or our perception of it)
  • how to make the bass audible on small speaker systems
  • why we sometimes refer to bass as the "teeth" of the guitar
  • why midrange growl, harmonics and overdrive are so important for a rock or pop bass tone (not only in heavy music!)
  • the impact of picks snd strings on the bass tone

...and much more

People And Bands Mentioned In This Episode:

Royal Blood, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Related Article:

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 012 - Bass tone is more than just low end

[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] It took me a long time to figure that out, honestly. So I'm glad that we're able to just like put that knowledge out there now for people that are getting into this where they can just like skip a couple of records of terrible low 

Benedikt: [00:00:13] end. This is the self recording band podcast, the show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are, DIY stuff.

Hello and welcome to. The self recording band podcast. I am your host. Then at the time, and I'm here with my amazing Canadian cohost, Malcolm owned flood. How are you? 

Malcom: [00:00:39] Hello. I am good. Thank you. Thank you. 

Benedikt: [00:00:42] It's kind of a shame that I. After like 11 episodes, I still didn't come up with another adjective other than Canadian.

Amazing. I'll come up with something eventually, 

Malcom: [00:00:54] but it's hilarious. I'm not offended by that at all, though. That [00:01:00] works for me. Okay. That's cool. 

Benedikt: [00:01:01] That's great. Um, so you're having a great time there still. 

Malcom: [00:01:09] Yes, actually I, uh, I have gotten some kind of, uh, distractions built up. I, uh, built a small little deck platform yesterday, or no, I guess I was too good two days ago now.

You know, you lose track of the days in quarantine, but yeah, I built a little deck on our, we got like a great view at our place here, so I've got like a little spot to go hang out now and just hang out in the sun. So that was cool. And that was fun to build as well. So yeah, things are, things are awesome, man.

I'm doing well. Also, I had a couple of people reach out to me from listening to the podcast and asking me questions and saying that they like the podcast and stuff. So that's really awesome to be hearing from you guys. Um. One to encourage anybody that is listening to, to do that, you know, reach out to us.

If, if we, there's obviously the self recording band, you can join that Facebook community, but also where we're just two people. You can talk to us as [00:02:00] well. Um, I'm pretty easy to find online, knock them on flooded. You type that in anywhere. I'm the only person with my name. I'm pretty positive. Nobody's got a name that log out there.

Let me, um, yeah, yeah, no Instagram and Facebook find us. And then Benedict, he's, he's super visible on there too. 

Benedikt: [00:02:16] Yeah, absolutely. Just just as my com said, find us, contact us. We're always happy to, to help. Might take us a day or two to get back to DMS and stuff, but we will, I think we, both of us will. We'll try to help an answer to everything and we just love to chat.

Honestly, not just give advice, but just chat and yeah, absolutely do that. We love to hear from you. So, yeah, and also I think I am also the only one with my name except for, and that's kind of weird actually, because it's not a too common name as well, but there is a, another audio guy, but he's a film audio guy, I think, because, Oh, really?

Yeah, because I was, I was. Googling myself as we all probably have done at one point, and [00:03:00] I've found a profile somewhere of some audio guide. I thought maybe this is a profile that I made and I just didn't remember. But then I saw he does all movie related things and I'm not that person, but there seems to be, 

Malcom: [00:03:10] yeah, that's not like doing some big movies.

Benedikt: [00:03:14] Yeah, it would be. I would love to, but 

Malcom: [00:03:17] yeah, you could poach poaches career. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:03:20] exactly. I didn't look at his credits, actually. I don't know if he does speak big things, but he's like, yeah, movie audio guy. 

Malcom: [00:03:27] Oh, I hope one day he finds this podcast. 

Benedikt: [00:03:29] Oh, that will be awesome. That will be amazing. Yeah. So, um, what w what are we talking about today?

Malcom: [00:03:36] Not today. We are talking about low end bass guitars. 

Benedikt: [00:03:40] Awesome. And we are talking about the fact that bass  is not only low and actually, 

Malcom: [00:03:47] yes, yes. That is the whole point. 

Benedikt: [00:03:50] Yeah. Because, uh, it might sound a little weird at first because when most people think of bass, they think of the low end of low frequencies of like the foundation [00:04:00] of the whole sound.

And that's of course, part of what a bass guitar does. But, um, if you're not talking about bass in the sense of the part of the frequency spectrum, but about the instrument, the bass guitar, it's much more than that. Um, it has various functions in an arrangement and a mix. And depending on the sound you're playing, depending on the Sean Ray, you're, you're, you're, you're, um, trying to capture, you will, um, yeah, there are certain things you can do.

To make the bass work and to make your song benefit from having the bass guitar in there, and it's not just the low end and that's what we're going to touch on today, right? 

Malcom: [00:04:40] Yeah. Yeah. I mean like I've had a couple conversations with basis in the studio where they just haven't understood why I'm focusing on the trouble in mid range of the bass guitar tone we're trying to dial in.

Like, it sounds Spacey. I'm like, yeah, but that's, that's not enough. That's not going to do it. Oh, my dog's coming in again here. But,

[00:05:00] uh, yeah. So it's just interesting thing, I think where to me, uh, if a bass guitar doesn't have the proper mid range and treble the, the low end, the actual bass part of it. Almost sounds pillowy and soft and, and like unusable. It's just kind of this big mess and it's actually the other side of the bass, the treble and the mid range that give the, the shape to that low end.

So you can have all of this fat bottom end that they all like, yeah, fat bottom line that you want, but without that mid range to to shape the like appearance and delivery of that, it's useless. 

Benedikt: [00:05:46] Absolutely. It's kind of, and even if it's very loud, it's kind of is invisible in a way. It's kind of overpowering everything, but at the same time kind of invisible or inaudible really.

It's just noticed that there's a rumble there, but you [00:06:00] don't really, it's not defined and everything. And I mean, there are, maybe there are exceptions, certain genres where this. This might work, or if you have, what can I think of here? Like maybe if you, but not, not really, but if you, maybe something like reggae or something, there might be some showers that have a really low, um, thick bass that doesn't have to be so defined, but in most like rock and pop.

Sean Braze. You don't want the bass to sound like that. And part of the reason is that you want to make the fundamental note audible and clear you because the bass functions as kind of a, when you have a core progression, the bass kind of leads you through that and it makes sure that there's always this fundamental note there and the chords and harmonies and melodies on top of that.

They all. Like you have more freedom to do other stuff around this, this fundamental note, if there's just one element there that is just consistent and that gives you that, [00:07:00] that note and that, that, that fundamental core progression, and that's part of what the bass doesn't do. You want to make that audible not only in the very low end, but in a range where it's actually really audible and where you can tell the notes from each other easily because in the very low end, it's hard for years and brain.

To really, um, tell, uh, the pitch, the note. And so that's part of it. And I kind of referred to that as an anchor. Like I, I perceive it that way. Like when there's a bass guitar. That's just solid and I can hear every note clearly, and it's just, just, I just know where we're at in the song. I just get the chord progression better if it's there.

Does that make sense? 

Malcom: [00:07:40] Oh, it makes total sense. And I know a lot of bass players hate just having to play the roots, and you don't always have to play the roots, but that anchor you're setting like something kind of has to do with that job. And usually it's the bass and it. Like without that, the like emotional delivery of the songs doesn't [00:08:00] kick.

Like if you drop into the course and it's like all of a sudden meant to just like drop into this low emotional kind of chord or something like that, without that anchor that you're talking about, it just doesn't connect. 

Benedikt: [00:08:11] Yeah, that's a very good example that you just sat there. Sometimes bass players put in some really great creative licks and stuff that might be great on their own, but sometimes they just don't work if it's the, the transition into a new part and when the first note is not there because they're up on the scale somewhere like up on the fretboard doing some weird things.

And this note, the first one is just missing. The whole park kind of falls apart and the whole entry into that part just doesn't work. So yeah, absolutely. I always need need that to be there too. Yeah. This anchor and that, as you said. It's not a bad thing that a bassist or it's not like, um, it doesn't make the bass any less important if you just quote unquote play the [00:09:00] roots.

It's a very, very important function in the whole arrangement of the mix. And it's actually not too easy to do as well. Like it's not that, um, everybody can do that or it's like, uh, because some, some people think. It's a very easy job, or it's like not as important, but it's not. It's, it's hard to do if you do want to do it right and you are serving the song and the band a lot if you do that.

So we have, I think we have to say that because some basis I think they feel weird if they, if they only play like the roots, 

Malcom: [00:09:31] they feel like they're not doing enough. But that's just the opposite is true. You know, they're like, they're, they're the one. Like showing restraint to serve the song. And that is so important.

Benedikt: [00:09:44] Absolutely. So, yeah. Um, also I think that what I said about making it audible is if you only consider the bass a low end, um, instrument, if you only think about the very low end, you [00:10:00] run into other problems as well, because as soon as you play. The song on smaller speakers in extreme cases, like a phone or a laptop speakers or even like, um, not so great stereo systems or headphones, their headphones, maybe not so much, but like smart speaker systems, you won't be able to reproduce the lowest octave properly and you might lose the bass completely if you don't have any like mid range information there.

If you're just focusing on the low end, you might hear that in your studio or on your headphones and you think it sounds great and thick and everything. But if you remove that sup over or if you take off the headphones, the bass is gone basically, and then you lose that root in this, this anchor once again, right.

Malcom: [00:10:43] Yeah. Yeah, it, it took me a long time to figure that out, honestly. So I'm glad that we're able to just like put that knowledge out there now for people that are getting into this where they can just like skip a couple records of terrible low end and realize that most people listen to music on little [00:11:00] earbuds or on phone speakers and stuff like that.

And if you don't figure out how to mix your bass and record your bass, or it's really what it comes down to recording your bass tone. Uh, with like a proper, uh, mid range. Essentially it'll just disappear on devices like phones or little ear buds that aren't, aren't very good. Um, because they just can't accurately reproduce this really sub, um, sub frequencies that are all you've put in your bass tone.

So you have to have that mid range. So for it to translate and show up on those devices, which is what most people listen on. 

Benedikt: [00:11:34] Absolutely. So true. And another thing is like, our brains are really fascinating because there is, um, an effect that happens when we hear mid range and overtones, um, on a, off a bass sound.

So we have the fundamental note, which is very low down the very low end. And above that, depending on the tone that we dialed in, we have overtones. If the tone is more saturated, a little driven, [00:12:00] or if there are a lot of, there's a lot of mid range. It's not just the octets to that fundamental note, which is all the same notes, just an octave above.

But there's all sorts of Hamas harmonics in between that add up and make up the whole bass tone. And the more you drive it, the more of those harmonics you get. And the thing about our brains is there's something called the missing fundamental effect. So if we give our brain and overtone series without the actual fundamentals.

So if you're playing a low E and the fundamental is not there on a smaller speaker system because it can't reproduce, um, the lowest octave, then the fundamental is not there. But our brains still hear a clear E and we kind of add that missing fundamental into what we hear. Even if it's not there. So we can actually hear it even if it's not there.

And that's pretty wild. So just hearing the overtones gives our brain enough information to imply and imagine the absent fundamental, and that's why we can hear basslines and identify the notes [00:13:00] on small speakers. As long as the overtones are there and if they're not there and the fundamental is missing, then basically everything's missing.

And so we need that dance overtone series. To rebuild that bass tone and then it actually sounds like a low, deep fat bass, even on small speakers, because our brain just adds this fundamental to it. 

Malcom: [00:13:21] So by adding mid range in trouble, you get more bass. 

Benedikt: [00:13:25] Exactly. Exactly. Because awesome. For learning. Yeah.

That's awesome. Because our brains have learned what a bass with, it's a bass tone or a note in general with its fundamentals. Sounds like, and if everything's there, just the fundamental that is not there, then our brain can still recreate that. And that's, that's fascinating. So, yeah, with adding a lot more mid range and travel and, or distortion, um, we, we can get the fundamental back on some older systems.

Malcom: [00:13:52] Right? Yeah, of course. It's not only just like the Sonic aspect of it where like frequency wise that it's important to have [00:14:00] that because having that mid range to your bass also affects how it relates to groove and like the, and feel of the song as well in a huge way. Um, now that's kind of where the line gets a little blurry, because like you said, with reggae, maybe having a little less of that grill is going to like only make the bass guitar mesh with the kick drum and not like the snare kind of thing.

Um, but in rock and pop, like you said. It's more important to have this like more broad band bass sound because it's going to really jive with all the other elements that are going on for rock in particular. Having that like rally mid range is going to really dig in with the snare and it's going to like just make the guitars go a hundred percent better.

That wasn't very articulate, but what I'm trying to say is that guitars don't sound good without a good bass 

Benedikt: [00:14:52] tone. Yes, they are one. Basically when you listen to your record and you really huge guitars, [00:15:00] oftentimes that's the result of the combination of guitars and bass actually. And so they, yeah. What guitars need the bass oftentimes in rock and the groove and feel of the song is also.

Usually you don't play just one long note and every bar, but you play a pattern. You play a groove, right? And you play either with your fingers or you pick, but it will make a, an attack sound, click, sound or whatever. And that is not in the low end and this and the way you play the feel. Um, if you can make a song sound a little rushed or a little laid back, you can.

It's very, it's a very important part of the whole groove and the bass and the drums together are creating the groove and then the picking pattern of the guitars is added to that. So bass is really much more than just the low end. It's also, it can also be almost a percussive element depending on how you play it.

And that all takes part in the, that all happens in the mid [00:16:00] range basically, because the low end is more, as you described it this. Rather undefined, but like a soft round bass kind of tone and above. Yeah, and an abundant buff that is, is the definition and the progressive elements and the groove stuff.

And that's important. And if we don't have that, the guitars sound a little weak. And as you said, the snare just, it's, it's, it's just feels better if it, if it goes along with the groove in the bass really well. So. Absolutely. It's not just, not just the weight of a track, it's also the groove and the part of tone.

Malcom: [00:16:39] Yeah. And then when you go back, you're thinking about speakers moving. Um. If you have this big bass sound that's going to push the entire speaker, you know, it's going to send all this energy forward. That's obviously going to have a result in how we perceive the music. Um, I, and one more thing to say here is that bass is like one of the [00:17:00] hardest things to track.

Um, at least in my opinion, to track the way I want to hear bass. It's like a painstaking process. Um, and I, and I, I spend a lot of time on making sure it's perfect because if you don't, the recording's just not going to stand up. Um, I think people think bass is the easiest, but I think they're totally backwards on that.

Benedikt: [00:17:21] I absolutely agree. I absolutely agree. Because if it's not consistent enough, you will. Yeah. Like you will have that feeling all the time, that there's suddenly, um, like a hole in the arrangement or that the energy goes away or that like something's always off the bass is, that consistent enough, it just has to be there.

And, um. Also, and that's another, another thing on our list here that we've prepared. It's, it sets the tuning reference point for the song, and that makes it also so difficult to track. And that makes it also so important to, uh, to get, to get right. Uh, because sometimes, I don't know if you've experienced that might come, but sometimes if [00:18:00] you.

Listen to a song and you think the guitars, or maybe the vocals even are a bit off and you think like there's an intonation problem and the vocals, or maybe a chord is not right, and maybe the guitarist bended a little too much or whatever. And then you solo all the tracks and try to find the mistakes, and then you find out that it's actually the bass.

That's yeah, that's wrong. And it makes everything else sound out of tune. 

Malcom: [00:18:22] Yeah. That can definitely happen. I mean, it goes back to it being the anchor, right? So that anchor has to be placed correctly, um, else you're anchored in the wrong spot. 

Benedikt: [00:18:33] Yeah, sure. So it's the tuning reference of the song or the, of the song, and that makes it so important, and that's, that makes it also hard to track, as you said.

Yeah, it's, you can't just underestimate the importance of the whole, of the whole instrument, basically in all the functions that it has. And along with that comes also the danger that even if you do, if you get that, and if you say, okay, it's not only low and I need an mid range to make [00:19:00] it cut through, I need to travel to get the attack on the groove and I need to make sure it's, the anchor is always there.

The danger is that bass has also because of all those things, the potential to mask almost everything else because it happens across the entire frequency range without maybe the very upper like top end, but from the very low end to the upper, mid range bass is, everywhere basically. And if you try to make it really audible and you try to get the anchor thing right and you try to.

Um, make it sound big and, and thinking everything. You have to be careful to do it with intention and to really think about the whole arrangement and how everything goes together. Because bass can really also mask everything else. And sometimes. I had, I had it that I listened to a song and I found that the vocal was buried.

And usually you think, okay, the guitars might be too loud or the symbols or whatever, but sometimes the bass [00:20:00] completely berries or masks the vocal because it's also in the center of the image usually. And um, yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's a, it's a fine line here and a difficult really is. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:20:12] Um, I'm glad you mentioned that because really the, the.

The part that the bass is actually playing is more important than really anything. Cause they, if, if you have the wrong part and you do all this work to make the bass sound massive and full range, it's actually going to be a negative. If you'd rather have the bass not be audible because it's going to eat everything, a bass is going to sound way bigger than a guitar and take away more space.

Um, so if it's doing something that is busier than your guitar part, the guitar is gone. Everything's gone kind of thing. So you have to really be careful that the part is right. And that's why so much of the time we're, we're encouraging the part to be kind of simplified or driven around the roots because that's already going to sound big.

It's already going to take up a lot of space 

[00:21:00] Benedikt: [00:21:00] and you're going to surf the song and the riff and everything so much more. If you do that and it makes your role even more important. And. Yeah, I, again, bass players sometimes feel like they have to do a lot to kind of justify their role in the, in the band or under the arrangement, but it's not the case.

And you actually take away from the overall energy of and size of the, the mix and the song and everything if you do too much. So, um, yeah, that's just something you have to, to get comfortable with. And I think part of the reason. Is that many, at least in my experience, many bass players are guitarists who were at some point forced to play bass or decided to play bass because they think, okay, I can't play the guitar, so I could probably also play bass, which is not the case by default.

It's not the same thing. Of course, you know how a board works and everything, but it's a different role and you've got to think differently. You don't want to probably [00:22:00] don't want to pick as much, don't. You want to, you don't want to do all the things that guitarist would do. You don't want to pick all the fast, you don't want to, um, do all the fast patterns and picking stuff then, and strumming the guitar does.

And if you do is just add, you will probably overpower everything. Uh, and that's part of the reason of this, I think that many people think of the guitar of the bass as if they were playing a guitar right. Yeah. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:22:27] totally. Um, should we give a couple actionable, like just like a few of our favorite actionable techniques, do you think just a be like, here's a couple of things you could try?

Benedikt: [00:22:40] Absolutely, absolutely. We should do that. Yeah, go ahead. 

Malcom: [00:22:43] Okay. First one. Try the part with a pick. And this is like something I insist on always. Almost always. I mean like if they're like one of these fleet types who are using all four fingers to do this role and it's steak and they're slapping and stuff, you know, that's a different conversation.

But nine times out [00:23:00] of 10 that's not the song I'm doing. Actually. That's never been the song I'm doing. So I get them to play it the way they normally play it, and then I give them a pick and say, play it again. And then we listen. And one of them is going to be an obvious winner. Um, and in rock, it's usually the pick just a heads up guys.

It's, it's normally the pick. Um, but it's not always, and, but that test is worth doing a hundred percent of the time. It transforms the tone of the bass. It's going to give it a lot more mid range and attack, which is generally a good thing if you're doing rock music for example, because you want that attack to be punchy with the kick drum and your guitars or whatever the part is written around.

But, uh, I would always test pick verse non pick. 

Benedikt: [00:23:45] Yes, I would do the test every time. There are definitely genres where finger style bass is, is absolutely the right decision and the right thing to do. But I guess some people just do one thing or the other other just because they are used to that and it's [00:24:00] hard to learn a new skill basically, and they just stick to what they are used to.

And if you had bass lessons, for example, and you learn how to play classic finger style bass, you might be afraid to switch to a pig. And if you are a guitarists. And you played with a pick all the time, all your life. You might not even think about playing with your fingers, but it's worth doing the test and looking at other bass players as well in your genre or in the bands that you look up to and see what they do, and then find out what works best for your arrangement.

Because it's not just a matter of personal preference, but it actually is a, makes a huge difference in sound and can totally change the whole feel of a song. And you might not even know. That you are doing a quote unquote wrong thing for your band for a long time, maybe. So. 

Malcom: [00:24:52] Yeah, totally worth it. Uh, another one is play hard.

[00:25:00] Um, I find that basis respond really well to being hit hard and be that your fingers or pick, uh, you have to be really careful to tuning, as we mentioned already. Um, but there's like something about. The power bass could have if it's really smacked well. Oh 

Benedikt: [00:25:17] yeah, yeah, 

Malcom: [00:25:19] yeah, yeah, yeah. You get, it just sounds like, like somebody hitting up big piano chord with a stick or something, you know?

That's the bass don't, I'm generally looking for. Um, and uh, you'll also find that once you kind of settle in on that approach, it's easier to keep it consistent and get even. Um, bass notes because bass is really susceptible to, if you hit it like soft and then loud kind of thing, like the bass, the low end changes, like the, the kind of feel of it and it just disappears and you won't get this consistent like, um, kind of bottom end glue effect across your song.

Benedikt: [00:25:55] Yes. Sure. Absolutely. And all of that only matters, by the way, if you're using [00:26:00] used drinks, I can't say that enough in every episode that's about string instruments. We have to say that you gotta use use drinks because it's so 

Malcom: [00:26:08] important 

Benedikt: [00:26:09] because I love that it's irrelevant. If you don't do that, you won't get the piano tone.

You won't get the grit. You won't get the clank, none of that. You won't get the solid low end. If you don't have new strings. So 

Malcom: [00:26:18] if we're on episode 12 guys, if you don't know the new strings thing yet, it's time to quit. 

Benedikt: [00:26:24] And even if you are not in to that piano tone thing or the clarity or the grit and everything, um, it's still worth playing with new strings because you can always cut the high end and just leave the lower mid range at the bottom, man.

But that will also be much clearer, much more defined. Um, bigger, everything, the tuning will be better. So it's not just for those people who like a really bright bass tone and it's for everybody. 

Malcom: [00:26:48] It's all like, yeah, you, uh, you can take a bright bass tone and make a doll. Yeah. That's possible. You can not do it the other way 

Benedikt: [00:26:54] around.

Yeah. Or if you want to go for, like, if you're into like kind of a. More [00:27:00] mellow, like dark, darker or um, softer Motown bass tone or something like that. You can always play with your fingers and use flat round strings or something like that. But as long as they're new, they're not going to sound like a bright piano.

But there, I've got a sound in tune and they will have all the overtones necessary. They have the bass, the fundamental and everything, and they'll. Yep. Just choose a different material that play with your fingers and it won't be too bright, but you use strengths. 

Malcom: [00:27:25] Yeah. The overtones are really the magic that happened with new strings on a bass.

It just really brings out like it transforms the instrument really. Um, and the, the cone knob, that's another way I'll get a dark bass tone. Like maybe I'm still using a pick or maybe I'm using fingers, but it's new strings and probably a bright tone, but I'm rolling the tone off and just kind of like smoothing into that kind of thing that way.

Like, I think a good tip for dialing in bass tones while you're recording is start with finding a good full range tone and then work backwards to the spot you're looking for. 

Benedikt: [00:27:57] Oh yeah. Do you find yourself doing that often, like roll [00:28:00] off the high end because more often than not, I find myself having all the nups maxed out on the bass  bass.

I always try, but I rarely do it. 

Malcom: [00:28:11] No, I rarely do as well. But it does happen sometimes, you know? Um, where like, cause when it happens is when it's somebody that normally plays with fingers and the music should be a little more mellow. But I'm finding that I'm getting away more. A solid performance with the pic.

I'll get them on the pic and then try and make the tone a little bit more like their finger style kind of thing. Perhaps. Um, if the, if the song calls for it. So that's when I'm doing it. But even then, generally I find it easier to just, ah. Like, use up a plugin and not even commit it that way. Just roll some high end in the monitoring and, and, and then we can figure it out in the mix from there kind of thing.

But I'm tracking a pretty solid bass on the guitars. I don't know how among guitars now, but yeah, all the knobs are full. 

Benedikt: [00:28:57] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And also I'm [00:29:00] always, that might be stupid, but I'm also always a little afraid. That the bass player might touch the knob accidentally and that he won't stay where it is like they do when you make sure it's just full on, like you can't make a mistake.


Malcom: [00:29:12] yeah, no, it's, it's so funny. They can't resist touching the dogs even when they're full. I'm like, Hmm, that sounds different. Did you turn your volume down? Oh, you did. Why? 

Benedikt: [00:29:21] Yeah, exactly. 

Malcom: [00:29:22] Yeah, so it's so funny, but I think it's just a habit fidgeting thing, 

Benedikt: [00:29:27] and as you said, I, even if I'm going for a darker tone, I'd just rather.

I just roll it off in any cue in the mixer or whatever, like even like sometimes for indie rock songs or something, you might want a little, yeah, a little dollar, more mellow tone sometimes, but that's easy to do and it's still important that the harmonics and everything are there. Yeah. Even in the lower mid range, not only the bright stuff, so yeah.

Malcom: [00:29:53] Yeah. One more actionable little tip trick. I would call this one a trick. [00:30:00] Grab a piece of paper towel or something like that. Fold it over a few times and slide it under any of the strings you're not using for that riff. If you're recording, just like a, you know, a couple of bars at a time or something just, and you're only on one string, get rid of all the other strings and mute them out with that paper towel.

I just like slide it right between the pickup and the strings. Usually. And that will get rid of them resonating. Uh, and or you accidentally kind of hitting them and really focus all of the sound you're capturing onto what's actually being played. Um, even if you're not hitting them, they still just seem to make noise and have like these little overtone ringing characteristics like, uh, like the, no matter how clean you play it, so if you mute them out, it really focuses in on the harmonics of the note you're actually playing.

And the tuning also just gets clearer as well. 

Benedikt: [00:30:45] Wow. That's a great one. That's a great tip. Yeah. Do that. Nothing to add to 

Malcom: [00:30:49] that on guitars as well. Yep. 

Benedikt: [00:30:52] Sure. Absolutely. Um, I want to ask you something. What do you think, I mean, I'm sure you have experienced that, and you [00:31:00] said it even at the beginning, I think, but what do you think, why.

Basis or people in general do tend to scoop out the mid range on their amps and just focus on the low end and maybe a little of the attack on the high end. Some of them do that. They have this kind of. Um, smiley curve Q on their amps that I see a lot that when people come with apps with like graphic cues on them, I often see the smiley curve.

They, they just don't seem to like mid range much. What do you think is the reason for that? 

Malcom: [00:31:32] I think it's because when you listen to a good mix. Um, like a song that you really like, you associate the mid range with the guitars. Um, so when they separated in their head, they don't think that part of that sound is on the bass when reality.

It is. Yeah. Um, so I think it's really just this like illusion that's created where it seems like the guitars are covering that, but really the bass is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Um, that's my [00:32:00] theory. 

Benedikt: [00:32:00] What about you? Yeah, I think so as well. And I think maybe another thing is that. If you are standing in front of your ramp on your own alone and you're dialing into tone, it might sound massive.

If you scoop out the mids because you hear all the low end and you hear the attack, and so you think you have definition and everything and it just sounds huge. And the meds might sound a little boxy or make it smaller, like to you, like they sound maybe a little cheap or a little, it just sounds more expensive and more massive if you get get rid of the mid range.

But if you put that into an arrangement to mix, it just disappears. It's the same with cars sometimes. Sometimes with high gain tones, people, uh, they crank the, the low end at the top on the, on the guitar IQ, and they, they get rid of all the myths and that might sound massive. If you're standing in front of your amp, but in the mix or on stage, the guitars just disappear.

And with them or the bass, I think it's the same. They, they, I think they are afraid. It sounds too wimpy or too boxy. If they have the mid range in there. So maybe that's [00:33:00] part of the reason. 

Malcom: [00:33:01] I think you're right. Uh, but yeah, if everybody, both the guitarist and the bass player are cutting out their mids, then now your band doesn't have anything filling in the mids.

Right. Like, it's a, it's a big problem and it's so common. 

Benedikt: [00:33:14] Common. 

Malcom: [00:33:15] Yeah. Yeah. Totally. You know, it's a funny thing that I probably, I don't think everybody's like this, but I've noticed that recently, no, not even recently. Quite a while now. I tend to have dirtier bass sounds than my guitars are dirty. Like, my guitars are actually cleaner than my bass a lot of the time.

And people think my guitars are dirty, but it's, it's, it's the illusion that my bass or just disgusting 

Benedikt: [00:33:41] basis, the potential to sound much more gnarly than, than guitars. And I try to think of why that is. And I often refer to it as the bass is kind of the teeth off the guitars also in heavier chandeliers where the guitars are actually distorted a lot.

But still. I think that the guitars, when you play chords there, it's a lot of [00:34:00] strings distorted pretty much. So you have a very dense, yeah, just a very dense signal, like everything is covered like this and it's a, it sounds kind of smooth for that reason because there are not no holes in the spectrum in the mid range, because the guitar guitar cord basically covers the whole spectrum, basically the whole mid range, whereas a single string on a bass.

If you distort that and you don't distort it too heavily, you'll have clear notes. Still, you don't have S dense overtones because it's just one string and it's overtones and its harmonics, and that can sound a little more gritty. It's not too, it doesn't sound as polished. It doesn't sound as dense. And you hear the distortion as a, yeah.

As as hair or teeth and they just cut through. The, this, this stance wall that the guitars are, I don't know how to describe it. You gotta hear it too. But, um, I mean, maybe, maybe it makes sense what I'm saying here. So sometimes very aggressively distorted guitars [00:35:00] can sound pretty smooth actually. And then when the gnarly, distorted or slightly driven bass comes in, it kind of breaks that wall and cuts through and gives it the teeth and the aggression that the guitars might've lost to the heavy compression and everything that happens from the heavy distortion.


Malcom: [00:35:18] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get that for sure. I mean, if anybody wants to see how massive a bass can sound like, check out the band Royal blood. I'm sure you probably, most people have probably heard them there. They're pretty successful now. Uh, I mean, I think they've always been successful, but they're pretty big.

And I mean, they're bass tones are fricking crazy aggressive and, and like, I don't think I've ever heard a guitar sound like that. You know, guitars need to move over and, and, and, uh, kind of like. Just make melody happen and make a, like the chords, because obviously a guitar is going to be, uh, has the ability to have voice scenes so they can kind of shape emotionally what's going on.

[00:36:00] Um, but they can leave some room for the bass to, like you said, be the teeth. Sure. 

Benedikt: [00:36:05] Yeah. And I think that slightly driving a bass, you don't have to overly distorted, but slightly driving a bass is. Very much, um, required almost in many of the modern genres, not only in having music because it just increases this, it just brings out the mid range.

It adds these overtones, and even if it's not a clearly audible distortion, it just makes the bass cut through more and it adds mid range without adding ACU. So that's another actionable maybe that you can try though. If you have a tube amp or if you have some pedal or something you can use to slightly saturate the, the bass and maybe you want to do that in parallel, or do you want to use like a, a I box split the signal into a clean bass DI that you can use for a clean, full, low end, and then you have the amp signal and you record both [00:37:00] simultaneously so that you can make the amp signal a little dirtier.

It's worth experimenting with that even if you're not doing heavy music, just because when you push the mid range with an ACU, you are always, um, making certain notes louder because every note. Is like every frequency is related to a certain note. And if you increase a certain frequency with an ACU, that note that belongs to that frequency, that root will get louder.

And so some of the notes in your patterns and your and your licks and everything might stick out a little bit. And if you use drive for saturation, you're going to increase all of the overtones for every note that you play. So the, the balance between the notes that you're playing will stay the same, but you have more mid range now.

Malcom: [00:37:49] Right, 

Benedikt: [00:37:50] right. So that, that, that might be worth it instead of trying to boost too much ACU, just slightly driving it my bring it out and might add the mid range in a [00:38:00] pleasant way. 

Malcom: [00:38:01] And then that little bit of driving also does take a little bit of a weird compression thing where you end up with a more consistent performance as well.

The dynamics are more locked in a little bit, which is so important for, for bass, but we keep driving that home, like consistency. 

Benedikt: [00:38:17] Cause this is the 

Malcom: [00:38:19] quick thing to said. The dimension though, don't, uh, I don't recommend playing a bass through a guitar app. Um, guitar speakers, I should say guitar speakers aren't meant to handle bass, so just don't do that.

Or at least not very long or not very loud unless you're okay with them breaking. 

Benedikt: [00:38:38] Yeah. Do you mean a guitar cabinet with a bass amp? 

Malcom: [00:38:40] Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Or, or really just a guitar speakers aren't meant to reproduce bass. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:38:48] Yeah. And also the, like the power input, they can, they can handle this usually lower than, yeah.

So you might have a 300 or 500 or whatever. What's, um. Bass head and your, your cabinet, your guitar [00:39:00] cabinet might be able to handle 150 or whatever. And then, yeah, that's just not what I'll do. 

Malcom: [00:39:05] Uh, like if you want to, if you're kind of like now thinking, Oh, okay, I need to make sure I get the bass right. The, the number one most important thing you can do is.

Use new strings though. But, uh, also, uh, uh, recorded the, I like, if you record us all the DPI, which is really easy to do. You don't even have to dial in a tone. You just have to like use a good bass that's intonated with new strings and play it well. Um, the, you, you've covered it. You're going to send it to somebody like Benny here to mix it, and he's going to have what he needs to make a great bass tone happen.

Um, like I would prioritize, uh, a DEI over an app sound with a bass where I wouldn't with the guitar. I think I would prioritize just getting enough great guitar sound and then the DIA is like a bonus, um, necessary, but a bonus. Do you know, uh, with a, with a bass that Dai should be your first priority? 

Benedikt: [00:39:57] I think in my mind, if I don't have an emperor devotee, I [00:40:00] can't do everything.

Basically, if the guy is great, if I only have the amp signal and it doesn't really fit the song, I'm kind of trapped so. 

Malcom: [00:40:07] Yeah. And most people don't have more than one bass amp. So the chance of you having the perfect bass amp for your song is just really small guys like so the DIA is going to like really leave that, uh, more open ended for whoever's mixing your album.

Benedikt: [00:40:20] Sure. Absolutely. And also maybe one more actionable thing here is it's worth thinking about the, it's always sort of thinking about the arrangement and in the, in the, in the bass, in the case of bass here, it's worth thinking about the relationship between. The kick, the bass and the guitars, and I would think of it in two ways.

The first way is where do you actually play the stuff on the bass? So is it very, do you play the root notes and you played in the lowest octave, or are you playing up on the neck most of the time, like, and you playing more guitar, [00:41:00] like, which can be the case in some songs. So is the fundamental frequency and the fundamental note, is it like very low or is it higher up?

Are you tuning in low or are you not tuning low? Like some stuff like that. I would always take that into consideration and maybe you don't need as much lower because you don't play these low notes anyways and that some, or maybe you only play those low notes, then you have to make sure they are there, but you have to also make sure you get enough drive or enough mid range to make them audible.

Yeah. Like what you actually play kind of, or impacts a lot of like the tone decisions, right. And it all goes together. You can say there's one bass tone, no matter what you're playing. There might be one bass tone for that one song and for another song, another tone might be more suitable. And then also the relationship with the guitar and kick drum.

Because if you playing higher up all the time. You want to make sure that the low end is filled in, but with the kick drum, you want to have a full kick drum. [00:42:00] If you play a very low notes and you want to have the bass sound very massive and fill out the SERPs, then you might want to put your kick drum.

You want to tune your kick drum a little higher up and make it more punchy and not so sub heavy, because that will also mask the bass. So bass tone is not about the bass guitar. On it on its own, but it's always in a relationship to other elements. So a very  bass tone will conflict with a very Subi bass drum.

And also if you have low tune guitars and you want to have the guitars, the low end, you want to keep as much of the low end of the guitars as possible. You will have to find a way to kind of get the bass around that. So you want to have to, you might want to have the lowest Doctoroff then you want to, maybe you want to carve out a little of the.

The upper bass to make space for the guitars, and then you'll want to make sure that you have a lot of mid range to make this very low bass audible again. And it's always, what [00:43:00] I'm trying to say is always think of the big picture and the relationship to all the other elements. Because bass tone, this only work together with everything else and not on its own.

Malcom: [00:43:11] Yeah. Yeah. I think that that, that kind of really sums it up well because we're talking about like these kind of like what people would consider bright bass tones being like kind of ideal in most situations. And it's not because they sound good. On their own. It's because they sound good with everything else.

You know, it works in, in the context of all the other instruments. It cuts through and does the job, and you know what you're left with seems like a bass centered instrument kind of thing. But it's because all the other stuff is there that we can now use the fundamental part, which is the bass. 

Benedikt: [00:43:46] Sure. And,  and the bass is most likely not the.

Quote unquote star of the arrangement. And that's not a bad thing, but most of the time in rock, the first thing people hear is the vocals and the guitars [00:44:00] and the bass. His job is to make them sound as big and powerful as possible. So that's not less important. It's just a different role. You're not in the spotlight.

You're not, you're not the one. That's upfront all the time and everything. Everybody else has to go around that, but it's the other way around. You want to have a great, awesome guitar riff or a great vocal line or a great groove or whatever, and the bass is there to support that and to make it sound as big as possible.

So you have to find the spots where everything else is lacking and fill it in with the bass and support everything. So. Again, you might not be in the spotlight, but you're not any less important because without you as the bass player, the others, the other stuff won't sound as great. 

Malcom: [00:44:42] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there's, there's still, even if you're just playing like the roots that are still decisions to be made, like.

Uh, like we said, are you gonna use a pick or not? If you have a pick, where are you picking? Like, um, like where you move your pick along the string changes, how it sounds dramatically, um, how [00:45:00] you attack it, how hard you hit it. If you're gonna play the same note, even the same Okta of like an open a string versus the fifth frit fifth fret, sorry, on the low East.

It's the same note, same Okta, but they sound totally different and one's going to be the right choice. Um, for the song and it's going to reinforce those guitars differently or the kick drum differently. 

Benedikt: [00:45:21] Sure. And maybe one last word of encouragement here. If you are able to implement all of that and develop a great playing technique as well and stuff.

So if you are really. I'm becoming a really great bass player, you will probably not have issues finding a gig, finding a job, because there are not so many bass players out there that are really, really great. Many of them are just as a SAC guitar players playing bass, but I think it's very, very hard to find a really great bass player.

It's much harder to find a great bass player than it is to find a decent guitar player. So if you can make yourself known as a really, really great bass [00:46:00] player, you'd gone, you're probably gonna to have a job. 

Malcom: [00:46:03] Yep. And, and what, uh, studio guys like us to consider a great bass player is not the guy that can play really fast and do all these crazy things.

It's, it's all how they can record how in tune they can play, how consistent their, their tone is. Um, like some, like the average bass player could play the same rift twice, and I was, could think it's a different person playing at each time because they're just so inconsistent. It's like, Oh my God, where a great one.

You know, it's like fat. It sounds like really consistent. It's the tone, like the tone is in the hands of a bass player is to such a huge degree. It's, it's amazing. Alright. 

Benedikt: [00:46:38] Yeah, yeah, you're right. Um, if you want to learn more about the whole, um, topic of low end and part of it is his bass, then I've, I have an article on my website on the self recording band.com.

Uh, if you go to the self recording band.com/low end, there [00:47:00] is an article called how to get your low and right before mixing, and it describes the whole low-end problem. It describes what low-end is actually the role of the bass and the role of the kick drum and their relationship. Um, the whole fundamental and harmonics thing.

Basically everything we explained now is, is there, along with some pictures to make it easier to understand. Um, I think you should check that out to learn more if you're into that. So go to the self recording band.com/low end. And you'll find more on that topic. So my com, I hope you're going to get songs to master in the future, that FLS low and problems, because that's, I guess that's one of the main things you will have to tackle in mastering 

Malcom: [00:47:49] a consistent low answer.

Yup, totally. That's super funny. So I hope. 

Benedikt: [00:47:57] This was helpful. I hope you get, [00:48:00] you got some, some value out of this and, um, as always, let us know and if you have some, maybe you have some great tips and techniques or you came across something that you have used to make your bass cut-through more, or something that, on along those lines, um, just let us know.

We're curious. We always want to learn ourselves so. 

Malcom: [00:48:19] Told them all day. And yeah, another little exercise for you too is like you've probably never made people think about bass, like they've probably never thought about bass that much. You know, it's not something somebody listens to a song. It's like, listen to that bass tone.

It's just doesn't really happen. So, but now do it. Go find your favorite songs and like analyze what's going on there and see if you notice anything new. 

Benedikt: [00:48:40] Oh yeah, sure. And maybe we can, we just cannot initiate. It's something we can do. We always come up with additional things after we thought we would finish the episode, but, uh, do what Matt just said, listen to songs and maybe try listening to songs on smaller systems like [00:49:00] laptops and phones and see if you can hear the bass, because then you might, um.

Understand easier what we, what we want to, what we want to say here. So yeah, just pick a couple of songs, good ones and bad ones maybe that were mixes that you think are good or bad or whatever. And just listen to them on or, and maybe compare them to your own recordings and listen on your laptop or phone speakers and then see if you can still hear the bass or, or not.

And see how, how those other productions are. Are doing it. And um, and yeah, that's a great, great exercise actually. Or open your door if you have one of your software maybe, and just put a low cut there at a hundred or 150 or 200 or something and then see if you still hear the bass or if it's gone. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:49:48] that's a great idea.

Benedikt: [00:49:49] Okay. All right. So that's it for this episode. What are we going to talk about next week, Mark? 

Malcom: [00:49:57] I think we're going to be talking about understanding all the little [00:50:00] buttons and doodads on your microphones and interfaces, so you guys actually knew what you're doing with those. 

Benedikt: [00:50:05] Oh yeah, that's gotta be, that's also going to be a great one.

A lot of you guys requested that because there's a little, a lot of confusion and. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:50:12] about out there all day. And even for folks that think they've got that on on rap, I would recommend just listening in because there's probably some cool uses for those that you're, you're not even taking advantage of yet.

So tune in next week. 

Benedikt: [00:50:25] All right. Take care. Thanks for listening. Take care. Bye. .

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